looks like the bowels of the basement. which it is. back there’s where we stash all of the extras: the big pot for once-a-year stews, paper towels, the beer we’ve had for maybe a decade.
(note to visitors: don’t ask for a beer ’less you like yours, um, aged. cooled and warmed, we pay no mind. just go on stashing our just-in-case beers.)
behind that tall gate, the one with the slats to keep out, maybe, the sheep, it apparently is also where we hatch us our crickets. where they pop out of eggs, grow their legs, and those noisemakers too.
not sure if you need a certificate from the village for harvesting crickets, but our crickets seem to have arrived before all of the paperwork.
just up and moved in. all of a sudden, one night in the week that’s just passed, i was strolling in the dark, on my way up to bed, past the top of the stairs that lead to the basement, and i heard it. the loudest darn sound coming up from the basement, well, since maybe some sheep in some previous domestic administration.
i stopped and i cocked my ear. jiminy cricket, we had us a herd. i thought of tiptoeing down. but then paused in the middle of thinking. hmm. these crickets might be awfully bothered if i got in the way of their wednesday night hoedown. and what if one clung to my jammies? i did not want to cuddle with crickets, once i arrived up under the sheets.
so instead, i turned off the lights once again. and i left the crickets to lock legs and swing with their partner.
you can imagine, i’m sure, that this was very big news in the morning. the little one had to see for himself.
so, braver than me it appears, he flicked on the light and descended.
i heard a good bit of scuffling from parts down below as i stood and pre-empted the bacon attempting to blacken, there at the stove.
cricket hunting, apparently, is no easy sport. no quiet one, either. you must turn over the laundry, shove aside plungers, all in an effort to eyeball one of the chirp-making jumpers.
he returned with the look of a boy disappointed. he’d seen not a one. but he heard them all right. i was not alone in my knowledge of the great cricket invasion.
that night, we conducted an experiment. nothing too over-the-top. involved just some banging of doors and skittering hither and yon. the perfect experiment, i think, for a boy who’s been banging for years and hadn’t a clue that such an activity could actually be labeled scientific.
what we did here was run in and out, up and down, and listen.
what we concluded was: the crickets in the basement outnumbered and out-chirped the ones out under the stars.
what we wondered was: why in the world had our house become the midwest headquarters of the september convention of crickets?
did they like the smell of our old musty basement? do they thrive in a room where there is less than no order? hmm. maybe they mistook it for a wilderness outpost.
i know i’ve had that thought as i stumble in to sort through the laundry.
seeing as we were hosting such a loud gathering, i started to wonder how we might feed them. did the little scientist, the one whose brain is absorbing all sorts of fantastical facts in first grade, happen to know what they eat, seeing as he had a small herd in a jar in his classroom?
why, yes, he did. he had an answer all right: “yellow goo.”
oh, swell. i’ll go out and i’ll get some today.
excuse me, sir, in what aisle might i find the goo that is yellow, as opposed to the goo that is green?
i envision it now. they’ll kick me right off this hallowed north shore.
round two of the science involved making a chart. “time. sound. visible.” those are the columns. the little observer, along with his grown-up, pen-holding assistants (it’s a big job), tracked the time when the chirps reached their peak. or he started to, at least. that apparently lost its allure shortly after 2:50, the first and last entry.
we go on, me and the cricket-recorder and our whole host of trespassing bugs. if only we could catch one, lay eyes on it for more than one giant leap, we might set up a booth.
like mario, the boy from the new york city newsstand who makes a star of a misplaced country cricket, one who chirps mozart and opera, even “onward christian soldiers,” for crying out loud, in one of my all-time favorite newbery winners, “the cricket in times square.”
we might draw less of a crowd, though, seeing as the street where i live is a little less traveled than the subway station under times square.
i rather delight in being a keeper of crickets. find it grand to have pets that need no bowls of fresh water. nor long nightly walks. nor shots that cost hundreds of dollars,
i say bring the outside inside. share the roof. though i might not set tea for the fox. the fox, who’s been nosing around, right in the middle of daylight, is a whole ’nother story.
and this was the story of crickets, who’ve taken over my cellar.
saves tuning the radio, i will tell you in closing, as i fade into the daylight. i’ve got a frequency now, no one could ever imagine.
the crickets, as long as they stay down where it’s dark, are mighty fine musical guests.
excuse me, it’s time for their lessons, i see. i’m trying to teach them some mozart. then all we need is a station, and the next book you read will be all about me and my three tenors with wings.
i was wondering if maybe the cricket brigade read that daily meander, midsummer night’s squeaks, a month or so back, and considered it some sort of lingering invitation. they arrived not long after their story appeared. perhaps they were sniffing out glory. whatever. do you have a tale you could tell, one of some sort of critter invasion? have you a wild flock of fleas? or perhaps a visit from mrs. opossum? i find sharing my space with itinerant nature just the thing to enliven a house otherwise altogether too human. would you agree? or are you vehemently opposed to all trespassers?